By Anne Therese Gennari
Welcome to The Climate Optimist, a monthly column where we shift the narrative on climate change so that we can act from courage and excitement, not fear!
“Optimism” and “climate” might seem hard to piece together these days, especially since the news keeps alarming us about severe wildfires, flooding, rising temperatures, and melting ice sheets. How do you even try to stay optimistic about climate these days? The answer is: because we don’t have a choice!
I’m Anne Therese Gennari and I’m so excited to embark on this journey with you. As a speaker, educator, and climate optimist, I burn for inspiring people to step out of denial and into empowered action. I believe that everyday activism has the ability to not just change the world, but lives, families, and organizations. It’s an act of healing and self-empowerment that opens up for curiosity and solutions-thinking; a driver for positive change, innovation, and growth!
Changing the narrative
My mission (as a speaker, educator, earthling, traveling soul) is to help people get excited about climate change. I understand that might seem strange, but after reading what I’m about to share with you, I hope it’ll make more sense.
My calling to fight for the environment came early in life, and it brought me on a bumpy road of anger and frustration. I couldn’t understand why no one else cared and why we weren’t doing anything about it. But on my quest to figure this all out, I learned a thing or two about human psychology, and what I found might amaze you.
Two types of change
When Covid19 first concealed us in an uncomfortably heavy blanket, I watched in sincere awe as the world came to an absolute stop. I asked myself: How can you get this many people and this many countries to do the same thing at the same time? I thought that was impossible!” I realized then that I was onto something, that I was about to get one step closer in figuring out this climate question I have been pondering on for so many years.
Fear-based change means that we change in order to avoid something we don’t want to happen, an anti-goal of some sort. Getting sick and dying from a deadly virus is an anti-goal, for example, ending up in a climate apocalypse is another one. What categorizes a F-B change is that we tend to act fast and that we’re driven by emotions like panic and fear. It’s a fight or flight kind of thing!
What we need to remember with fear-based change, however, is that we need two very important things for it to actually work. First, we need an anti-goal that feels scary on a personal level, then we need to pair that with a clear idea of what to do to avoid that anti-goal. This was showcased brilliantly with Covid when the whole world feared the same virus and everyone was asked to simply wash their hands and stay at home.
Scary threat + simple, clear actions = voila, massive change!
With climate change, however, we’re stuck in a gooey mess. We’re trying to install change by pushing these fear-based incentives (act now or we’ll soon find ourselves in a place of no return!) while lacking the two essential parts for it to work – relatability and clear action!
Sure, we all fear climate change, but for most of us it feels like something that will happen in the future or that is happening to polar bears or people in other parts of the world. Not until just recently has climate change actually felt like a real threat to all of us, which means that the urgent trigger for action isn’t there, nor are there clear directions of what to do to avoid it. This, paired with a bunch of other psychological barriers (which I will get deeper into in a future post) brings us to a standstill. Panicked, yes, but absolutely helpless.
But that won’t change the fact that climate change is here and that we must indeed do all we can to stop it. So luckily there is another way to get people to change. I call it positively incentivised change.
Time to get excited!
The reason I say it’s essential that we change the narrative on climate change so that we can act from courage and excitement, not fear, is because it is. This change – the positively-incentivized one – depends on it.
You know this kind of change very well. It’s the kind that comes from hard work and commitment, fueled by a deep desire from within to reach some sort of goal.
The biggest difference between the two types of change is that for one of them, we try to avoid an anti-goal, and for the other, we work hard to get to a desired destination.
You’ve done this when you’ve studied for a test, learned how to ride a bike, or changed your lifestyle to live happier or lose weight. You don’t do these things because you dread what’s on the other end, you do it because the outcome excites you!
So what if instead of fearing the future where climate change has gone absolutely off the charts, we put all gears in high to drive towards a future we desire? What if instead of doing all we can do to avoid change, we focus all our intention on making a different kind of world take form!
Not worse, just different. And who knows, maybe even better?
The stone age is over
There’s a quote that I love by a renowned American architect, William McDonough:
“The stone age didn’t end because humans ran out of stone, it ended because it was time for a rethink about how we live.”
We’re nearing the end of an era and it’s time we surrender to that fact so that we can let go and move on. The industrial revolution has been great and brought us a lot of wonderful things. One of those things is advanced technologies in science, which has led us to have a deeper understanding of what’s actually going on.
It’s a fool’s game to see the facts and still choose not to move. We know that climate change is real – the new IPCC report said that without room for doubt or denial – so we have to take that information and run with it!
Join the revolution!
There are so many incredible people on this planet working tirelessly to co-create a better world and all you have to do is choose to do so with them. You have a role to play on this journey, even if that means simply shifting your mindset to begin.
It is not time to give up! It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to some serious action. But now when you’ve learned about the two types of change, catch yourself when in despair and ask the question: “How can I shift the narrative on this? How can I use this knowledge and choose to embrace change with curiosity, courage, and excitement?”
In our next topic, we’ll get real about optimism and I’ll share how to create it from within instead of relying on the world to provide it for you. I call it being an Optimist In Action! In the meantime, visit www.theclimateoptimist.com for more resources and if you feel called – take the 8-Step Course to Become a Climate Optimist in my Master Class today!
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